Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Healthcare Woes

After going a year without health insurance I decided to quit being foolish and just pay up for the school plan. Ugh!! I sure took my health insurance for granted when I was working for the University of California. Man, do I not want to pay for it. I guess $2,000 isn't so bad considering the cost if I were to get really sick or hurt, but this is sure hurting my checking account! Can I get some health care handouts please?

I was one month away from my yearly physical when I left my old job, so I have gone 2 years without seeing a doctor. I hope everything is fine! What I'm more nervous about is the fact that I haven't seen a dentist for a year. Last time I didn't go for a year and a half and ended up with 11 cavities (I don't remember the real number but it was something crazy like that). I think that dentist was very aggressive though, I hope this time around it doesn't cost me $600!

Do any of you in the Chicago area love your doctor and/or dentist? When I lived in California I changed doctors every year because I just wasn't thrilled with them and didn't know anyone to ask for recommendations. I really liked my old doctor in Grand Rapids and am dreading finding one here. The most important thing I need to know is if your doctor/dentist has a really nice office. I judge health care providers by their offices. If the office is dingy I ain't going there!

How was your experience finding a new doctor or dentist in a new city?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How to Gain 5 lbs in One Week!

Earlier this week in my boredom I made a batch of "The Good Ranch". If you have ever been out to eat with me chances are you have heard me ask the server if they have the good ranch. Typically the servers know if they do or not. I first met the good ranch when I worked at the 68th St Grill in Dutton, Michigan. What a fun high school job that was. One of my jobs was to make the ranch. It's super easy and super sinful and probably why it tastes so good. Its a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix, 1 cup buttermilk and 1 cup salad dressing. I use real mayonnaise, but the light or salad dressing is still good and should last about 4 weeks.

I have about 3 cups of buttermilk left over so I froze an ice cube tray's worth for next time I want to make the ranch. I plan on making Buttermilk Ice Cream with the remainder. I found the recipe at SmittenKitchen.com and am so excited to make it for a BBQ we're having tomorrow night! I think I am going to serve it with blueberries. The ice cream recipe called for heavy whipping cream so I bought some today, saved what I need for the ice cream and made real butter with the leftovers.

I have never made butter before, unless you count in preschool at Thanksgiving in baby food jars, and it was so easy. I followed the recipe from the kitchn and it turned out great! I just hope it really lasts like it says it should.
Ready to start!
Whipped and fluffy after about 1 minute
Starting to come together
Drained off buttermilk (I would save, but I have leftovers already. I should have planned better)
Rinsing the buttermilk off the butter
Squeezed dry and ready to enjoy!

 Tomorrow on to making mayonnaise!

Coming to America!

Today, or what's now yesterday, is our Coming to America Day! We never really celebrated it as children, but now that I'm older I take a minute on this day every year to be thankful for my awesome family and the sacrifices they made so they could adopt us. How cool is that? We arrived exactly on our half birthday!

Mom, one of us, Lisa, Kelly, Dad and the other twin?

Everybody loves chubby babies!
For more information about adoption visit Bethany Christian Services (the agency we were adopted through).

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's Hung!

As mentioned in one of my first posts, I was waiting for the bf to hang my DIY menu board in the pantry. I am proud to announce it's hung! I love it. :)

I have the let the computer rest now so the weekly backup can finish. I recently downloaded GFI backup for free because I salvaged my desktop's hard drive and put it in a neat little case thing for external storage (I felt really handy that day!). I got it at Micro Center and if you have one in your city I highly recommend going there instead of Best Buy. Backing up only takes a short time and you should all be doing it!

Home Grown Veggies!

Picture from last year 2009

One of my 30 before 30 is the plant and harvest a garden. I spent Saturday evening and Sunday at my parent's place on Spring Lake in Michigan and had a chance to get some garden inspiration. My dad loves his garden so much and you can tell by how much time he spends there. My garden will surely be much smaller than his. My parents are pretty much vegetarians and eat very healthfully so it is not surprising they have a garden. They also started composting and collect rain water from the roof of the garage (pictured) in a barrel convered with a screen.

The best part of our visit was bringing all these yummy veggies home. I won't have to shop this week! Onions, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, eggplant, and potatoes. The broccoli, spinach, lettuce were almost done so none was available to take and the sweet potatoes and carrots weren't ready yet. My mom also went with my older sister and the kids to pick peaches so we grabbed a few of those too! What a great reason to want to live closer to home.

I can't wait to have my own garden someday and can, pickle, and jam all the goodies! For now, I will have to settle for making my own butter, mayo, peanut butter, and ranch dressing. These are this week's projects and they are not near as healthy as growing veggies!

Friday, August 20, 2010

To Do in Chicago

Right before the drive from  San Clemente, CA to Chicago!
We have been in Chicago just shy of one year and are committed to the city until 2013. I feel a bit claustrophobic thinking about being forced to stay in one place so I am already thinking of what city we should move to when he is done with law school. Boston? Boulder? The Pacific Northwest? SF? Ultimately, it will all depend on the job situation so it is useless to even try and make "plans". By then it will be time to grow up anyways, right? Ick.

Chicago has been great to us though. I have had the best year ever! We are close to home and family and have great friends in the city who are always doing something fun. There is so much to do and see in Chicago; we tried to not say "no" to anything this year, but only managed to do a little. In anticipation of one day leaving this wonderful city I have complied a list of firsts I want to experience in the Second City (most have been bookmarked in a folder since we moved here!).

  1. Go to a Bears game
  2. Shop at the Green City Market
  3. See the sun rise over Lake Michigan and the city
  4. Weird Chicago's Devil in the White City tour (Kim, Joey, and BF need to read the book so we can all go!)
  5. Go to Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
  6. Shop at the Chirstkinlmarket at Christmas time
  7. Go to the Magnificent Mile's Lights Festival and see the parade
  8. Take a Sailboat ride on Lake Michigan
  9. Dance at the Chicago Summer Dance downtown
  10. See one of the Chicago Park District's movies in the park
  11. Visit the Shedd Aquarium
  12. Visit the Museum of Science and Industry
  13. Visit Alder Planetarium
  14. Visit the Field Museum of Natural History
  15. Visit the Art Institute of Chicago (I will have to check out the free Kraft Great Kids Museum Passes from the library for all the museums,or I'll be broke.)
  16. Carriage ride down Michigan Ave during winter
  17. See the light show at Buckingham Fountain
  18. Pack a picnic and see a free concert at Jay Pritzker Pavilion
  19. Take my parents to a Broadway show
  20. Skydeck???  I may be too scared for this one.
  21. Pride parade!
Some of these will fulfill items on the 30 before 30 list.

Anything else super cool to do in Chicago that's a must?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lord Have Mercy!

My sister just came over for dinner and respite. We made deluxe grilled cheese reminiscent of the Yard House's grilled cheese using asiago pepper bread from Trader Joe's, cheddar, swiss, fontina, bacon, avocado, and tomoato. I must say, the bread is what really makes the sandwich. We also had tomatoes and roasted red pepper soup from TJ's and I added some stolen basil leaves from our neighbor's herb garden. It was delicious and very sinful, so I only ate half of my sandwich.I forgot to take a picture, which really doesn't matter because my food pictures never turn out well.

Now, for the Lord have mercy part. Tonight is Day 2 of the hundred push up challenge. Monday I did 5 sets of push ups, totaling 25 and I am still feeling it today. Surprisingly, it was way easier than I thought it would be. Unfortunately, Tuesday my shoulders, back and armpits hurt and today my lower abs (or what should be abs) ached. Tonight I need to do sets of 6,8 6,6, and 7. I am already feeling like I bit off more than I can chew! I feel like giving up on day 2. If I was a counselor applying my classroom management theories to the quitting behavior I would say it is to avoid failure. This is probably 100% accurate. The 1,000 caolorie grilled cheese is not helping my motivation!

I am going to do them right after watching Hard Knocks.

On a side note, the BF has orientation tomorrow. Life of law school begins tomorrow!

How do you motivate yourself to do things you don't want to? And, a favorite quote of my sisters, what would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Remember the Poor

When I first moved to Chicago I was really taken aback by the lack of friendly faces. I was accustomed to walking by a stranger and smiling, saying hello, or at least acknowledging their presence. I noticed the same thing on the train and on the bus. The city felt cold, impersonal, and mean. I guess that is why Chicago is the Second City and Philly is the city of Brotherly Love (yes, I realize it didn't get the nickname because its people are friendly). After living here for a few weeks I decided to try to smile at 5 people in passing every day, and  maybe they might begin to smile at others. You never know what that person might be going through or how much a smile really means.

When I would smile and look for eye contact many would not even look at me, rather over me or through me. I felt foolish for trying such a thing in a jaded city, although I suspect the more salient feeling was rejection and worthlessness. Trying to make a human connection, however small it may be, and being completely disregarded is something many adults do not experience anymore. We only take the risk to make these connections when we are confident it will be reciprocated.

After experiencing the feelings of these failed attempts I began to reflect on my own behavior. How many times have I walked past someone with a cardboard sign and their hand out and ignored them? How many times have I looked the other way when someone was walking through the train jingling their cup asking for change? What does that feel like to those who have nothing? How might simple acknowledgment of their existence with eye contact or a warm smile impact them? Is it too  much to show kindness to others?

Around the same time, while riding the train, a woman came through with a cup asking for money. Every single person looked at their book or out the window. It wasn't because she was deformed or disgusting, it's because you cannot look another human in the eye without feeling connected and compassion for them. It was to quell their guilt for not sparing 30 cents from their pocket. And I did it too. I looked right out the window with my sunglasses on. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a gentleman reach into his pocket and place all his change in her cup and he said, "I just have to, I would feel so horrible if I didn't." Such a simple gesture moved me to tears on the Red line at the Belmont. His comment got me thinking, do we do these things out of guilt or do we genuinely want to share and help others? Does it matter what motivates us to show kindness?

While giving money to beggars is constantly debated, I decided that day to keep some loose change in my outside purse pocket (still need to be cautious and not pull out the whole wallet!) just in case the lady who works the train around Belmont ever comes through my car again. It is easy to get caught up in the walk and commute and it still huts my feelings when people look past me, but I try to smile at others when I remember to.

This past weekend my sister's husband, and one of our closest friends, lost his father very suddenly. Answering God's calling, Ken Graves used his talents and began a website/webzine with the mission to remember the poor. I believe if he gave change to the homeless it would not be from guilt, but to share God's grace. Please take a moment to visit his website so his passion for serving others will continue from above. http://www.rememberthepoor.net/

Have you smiled at someone today?

Monday, August 16, 2010

#6 Do 100 Push Ups

This weekend was yet another reminder that life is precious and helped put the "list" into perspective even more. Some items on the list take a fair level of commitment or more money that I have access to at this time. So I decided to start with #6 100 Push Ups, because it only takes 3 days a week for six weeks and it is free! Now, I don't think my arms are necessarily bad, but I wouldn't call them great. I have never considered myself strong and sometimes play the weak Korean card. I remember in elementary school, during P.E. with Mr. Zbikowski, doing the pull up test and just dangling there waiting for my turn to be done (same for the rope climb). Maybe once I can do 100 push ups I will feel empowered?! (Shout out to Justin for the question/exclamation punctuation combination. I am beginning to understand your affection for it.)

Here are the before pictures taken this evening:

Tonight I completed the initial test as instructed by hundredpushups.com. This test let's the participant know where to begin on their journey to buffer arms! I was shocked that I was able to do 7 real push ups. Granted, my form was horrible, but I was certain I would only be able to do one or two. I am going to try to do real push ups throughout the course of the challenge! We also measured my arm and it is a whopping 9 1/4 inches. I am not sure if I want bigger arms, but I would like them to be more defined!

Ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure, I present you with the video of the initial test!!!

How many push ups can you do?

First: Chicago Air & Water Show

This weekend was the Chicago Air & Water Show and we didn't go to it. According the the press 2 million people would be in attendance throughout the course of the weekend. Instead, we went to Belmont Harbor to watch the practice on Friday. The boyfriend (will be referred to as bf instead of using pronouns from this point forward) had seen the practice the day before and was really excited for me to see the Blue Angels for the first time. It was super hot outside, but we had a nice spot in the shade and there was a cool breeze coming off Lake Michigan so it was perfect! The bf said Thursday there were only two other people there, but when we went there were watching the practice. We stayed for about 2 hours and waited until the last possible minute until I had to go home to shower for work. I missed them. That is, until I was waiting for the El and they flew by! Pretty neat, but I am not sure they were worth all the hype. The bf was so excited for me to see them so I was happy to catch a glimpse, even if it was only for a second.

Is the Air & Water Show overrated or totally worth it?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cliché? Definitely. My 30 Before 30

Now I know I am only 26 1/2 years old but life has been cruising by so fast! I have been having the best time ever since...a really long time. I have heard of people making lists of 30 things they want to do before they turn 30 years old (kinda like a bucket list). I think this is such a neat idea to set goals and keep track and what better way to do this than on the blog!? Does this imply I should be be blogging for 3 1/2 more years? We'll see!

This is a list in progress. Here is what I came up with thus far:

  1. Go to Mackinac Island and buy fudge
  2. Camp in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
  3. See the Northern Lights
  4. Take a real vacation with him to somewhere relaxing, warm and all inclusive
  5. Try snowboarding
  6. Do 100 push ups
  7. Make Macarons
  8. Plant and harvest a garden
  9. Learn the waltz
  10. Give at least one speech at Toastmasters
  11. Host a low country boil for all our friends
  12. Catch a real sized fish, clean it, cook it and eat it
  13. Read 10 classic books...so many to choose from!
  14. Start contributing to my Roth again
  15. Spend more quality time with my nieces and nephew
  16. Take music lessons for a year, either violin or piano (neither of which I own)
  17. Consistently volunteer for the same organization
  18. Find a church that is congruent with my beliefs and become a part of their community
  19. Get a job that I love and be my best at it
  20. Do one of the city scavenger hunts like Urban Dare
  21. Golf 18 holes without complaining with him, Kim and Joey
  22. Stop paying rent and own my own place! 
  23. Thank people more often. (A customer sent me the sweetest thank you at the store and I realize people don't do it enough!)
  24. See a meteor shower
  25. Become a stronger writer (professionally and grammatically)
  26. House boat on Lake Powell, or somewhere else, with friends/family
Where to start? Maybe with the push ups.

What is #1 on your list?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Speaking of Cockroaches

At night I am always cautious to walk into the kitchen without first glancing around for any dark spots on the floor. Tonight was no exception. I saw a spot near the fridge and called for him to come kill it. Well, he was sleeping on the couch and said no. So I crept to the cupboard to grab the roach spray. When I had it in my hand I turned to spray and the roach was gone! I sprayed a bit between the fridge and counter where we keep paper shopping bags (I heard roaches like paper so I need to throw them out tomorrow) and beneath the fridge. Suddenly the biggest one yet comes cruising out and I screamed because it was so disgusting. I sprayed it good and it's dead on my floor because I don't want to touch the thing to throw it away. He can do it in the morning.

Ick, I have the hebeejeebies right now just thinking about it. Have you seen Billy the Exterminator? Well I have and I don't want my apartment to get to that!

On a more positive note. Our lovely neighbors heard me screaming and whimpering at 1 am and yelled down to see if I was alright. I suppose the good people living in the building make up for Ratzilla and cockroaches.

I am debating about posting a picture of the dead cockroach for your viewing pleasure. Who would like to see it?

I am posting some information about cockroaches I got from my old boss/mentor/friend, John Kabashima, Ph.D. and specialist in Integrative Pest Management among other things.

You asked for them. Sorry about the poor quality. I am not great with my point and shoot camera.

Oven and inch long!

Look at those legs. Sick. It had wings too, so it must be an adult. Are its babies somewhere?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Day of Life as Full Time Graduate Students

Woooo Whooo! Yesterday was his last day at work and today is the first day of his "new" life. He started working for the company in 2007 when we moved to Orange County, CA and transferred with the company when I decided on grad school in Chicago. I am probably feeling more sentimental than he is about his transition from full time employment to full time law student.

Why am I feeling emotional about this? Well, I am anxious (which probably really means I am scared). How will this transition impact our relationship? Our finances? Our life? Scared because people keep telling me about the break-up rate of law students. I am sure we'll be fine though! At the same time, I am proud that he is ambitious, put himself out there, took the risk to go back to school, invest in his/our future. I am excited and hopeful that this is it; he won't hate his job and will feel more fulfilled by this decision. I was so nervous before I started my program, but found myself feeling absolutely content and at home in my decision. I hope he can experience the same peace.

Are we just putting off adulthood by going back to school or is this the next step towards adulthood? Are we delaying the inevitable sucky job, mortgage and kids?  We are 26 and 28. Aren't we adults already? I always told myself I was a real adult when I had my own health insurance and was actively saving for retirement. I was there a year ago, have I reverted? Are we both taking a step back? I keep trying not to compare myself/us to others, but it's hard.

How do you know when you are officially and adult?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Funky Towels and Firsts from the Past

I still feel very new to the city after living here for eleven months. There is so much to explore and experience. With him starting law school at De Paul next week we know we will have a minimum of three more years to try and do it all, or at least what we can afford! I am so excited for the many firsts to come, but wanted to take a moment to reflect on firsts from the past.

Since moving to Chicago September 2009 I have experienced these firsts:

  1.  A rat in my kitchen, that's right an authentic Chicago city RAT. No, my eyes and the dark were not playing tricks on me. I did not mistake a little mouse for a rat. Ratzilla was in our kitchen on multiple occasions and he finally saw it to confirm my reports. Ratzilla shook off mouse traps, evaded sticky traps and jumped in and out of our trash while we were watching t.v. Thankfully, after stomping my feet a few times, the super of our building pulled out the counter and patched the hole where Ratzilla was entering/exiting through. Every time I do laundry in the basement I am scared I will have another encounter with Ratzilla.  Beware! (more on Ratzilla may be found here)
  2. Cockroaches in the kitchen. There have been 4 cockroach sightings thus far this summer. That also means there have been four blood curdling screams this summer in apartment 1. The roach spray seems to be holding them off for now, but if they have to bomb our apartment you will find me taking shelter at my sisters. This video is for Mikey!
  3. Depending on public transportation. This year has been the first time in my life since I was 16 years old that I did not have my own car. I have relied on the El an the bus to get everywhere. This has posed challenges in running errands and cramped my style a bit, but it has also made me feel a sense of independence that I was not expecting. As a category of this "first" I will touch on CTA horrors. For months my city friends had been telling me horror stories of being harassed or seeing crazy stuff on the El. I would always tell them they must be unlucky because I had nothing but great experiences riding the red line. That is, until Saturday, March 13. The day I saw a grown man defecate in a full train car. It was the early morning of the St. Patty's day celebrations, I began to smell what I thought was someone with a major gas problem. Everyone was grimacing at the wafting stench. That's when I saw, near the front of the car in the little alcove, a man buckle his pants. It suddenly all made sense. Everyone began moving to the other side of the car trying not to make a scene. I was hung over and gritting my teeth trying not to vom and make the stench even worse. Thankfully, my stop was next. 
I will let this first end today's post. I think that rats, cockroaches and human feces in public places is enough to stomach for one day! 

What is the nastiest first you have in a new place?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pros and Cons of Depending on Others (aka, Him)

It is awesome to be in a committed and caring relationship. There are many perks of living with your significant other like not eating dinner alone, getting more mail in the mailbox to be excited over, cooking for two instead of one, packing their lunch and having them bring it home empty so you know you did a good job, etc. One of the biggest perks of all is having someone around to do the tasks that I am not good at. For example, his grandparents gave us this MSU photo wall hanging for Christmas and I tried to hang it myself after many months of it sitting around in the guest room. He came home and finally noticed it, along with the two failed attempts (holes) I'd left in the bathroom. He is so thorough and precise when it comes to hanging things on the walls and while it drives me nuts when he takes so long to measure and remeasure, I have to love the time and care he puts in.

Notice the little holes right above the "S"
Among all these perks of living together there is one con that drives me bananas, waiting for him to get around to doing it. I like things done right away, which may be attributed to my being a millennial (future post on this) or being slightly OCD. For example, I saw a DIY (do it yourself) online for a dry erase board out of an old ornate picture frame. My mom and I hunted around at garage sales for a cool frame and then she remembered she had one at home. It finally made its way to Chicago and I took the picture out, replacing it with some fancy Paper Source paper that has a green flocked flower pattern. I was going to spray paint the frame a fun color but guess what! Selling spray paint in Chicago is outlawed!?! So the frame remains gold and I think I like it.

I am going to plan our weekly menus (in attempts to save money and not feel panicked at the end of the day) on this marker board and want it hung in our walk-in pantry right above my rack of aprons. P.S. I love and am obsessed with my pantry and want to hang a thrifted chandelier in. This was the main reason I didn't want to move when it came time to resign our lease! Anyways, the board has been done for weeks and is just waiting to be hung! 

Who wouldn't love this pantry?

What do you like best about living with your significant other? Find most challenging?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Someone CallED 911!!

Today after riding the MegaBus home from that city where that other school is I sat down to relax on the couch when someone started buzzing my door. I looked out the window

and there was one of Chicago's finest dressed in blue. I said, "Hello do you want me to buzz you in?" to which he replied yes (obviously since he was buzzing!).  I didn't have any pants on because it is hot as Hades in Chicago and I didn't have anything going on today. So, in an effort to get decent, I yelled for him to hold on and scrambled to get some shorts on. This is the third time someone has come and buzzed us and I have had to run to put on a robe or shorts, think this is a sign? YES!

Turns out guys in our building saw someone crawl out another apartment's window upstairs and onto the patio. They did the right thing and reported the breaking and entering because the girl wasn't home. Hopefully she has renter's insurance. Luckily for us, we have bars on our back windows that are accessible via the porch.

Our other windows are high enough off the ground I don't think we have anything to worry about, do we?

I don't think I'll worry about it. What I will worry about is The Secret Life of the American Teenager. If I am going to work as a high school counselor I think I should watch what kids are watching and boy, is this show full of adult themes. Stay tuned for a future post on "stuff" (this will be a profanity free blog for the sake of my professional integrity, haha) kids are watching these days! One positive thing about the show is they mentioned Gestalt's empty chair experiment!

What do you think? Have you watched it?

Top 10...

...Reasons I Started this Blog
  1. I have a bunch of spare time.
  2.  Document adventures/misadventures in a new (ish) city.
  3.  Collect and reflect on thoughts regarding my masters program, his first year of law school and life in general.
  4.  Keep track of projects I want to complete and their progress.
  5.  Share my/our life with friends and family who are a long way away.
  6.  List goals of a mid (omg mid?) twenties millennial gal and her boyfriend. Let's not pretend this is "our" blog. I will be doing all the posting and it will be entirely from my perspective but will often include him.
  7.  Preserve memories. Hello! Blogging is the new (again -ish) scrap booking, only a whole lot cheaper!
  8.  Work on my writing.
  9.  Complain about being broke/keep myself accountable!
  10. .Inflate my ego by believing someone cares enough to read this blog!